Alabama SI Cover Tournament: Kenny Stabler vs. Tua Tagovailoa

Christopher Walsh

It's a Super Bowl won by a legend, against a national championship capped by a freshman. 

Even though they're the games both are most known for, to say this is a quarterback showdown between Kenny Stabler and Tua Tagovailoa doesn't due it justice.

And yes, it's a second-round matchup of the Alabama SI Cover Tournament, a 48-field single-elimination bracket to determine the best Crimson Tide Sports Illustrated cover.

Vote on Twitter (@BamaCentral) or Facebook (@AlabamaonSI). The voting goes 24 hours for each matchup and the result added to the original post on BamaCentral.

A quick note, a first-round matchup from the final regional will be posted over the weekend, with voting lasting through Memorial Day on Monday.

Second Round

Bear Bryant Regional

Game 27: Oakland Bowls Them Over (Kenny Stabler) vs. Fresh Heir (Tua Tagovailoa)

Oakland Bowls Them Over 

Kenny Stabler cover Sports Illustrated, Jan. 17, 1977

Story headline: The Raiders Were All Suped Up

Subhead: And the Vikings were all but wiped out in the Super Bowl, as Oakland ran and passed pretty much as it pleased in setting a record for total offense. But the final score may be of interest only to trivia fans

Excerpt (by Dan Jenkins): For your final halftime stunt, ladies and gentlemen in the stands for Super Bowl XI, write down on your cards what you think of the Minnesota Vikings so far. Now hold the cards up.

Nah, it would never clear the censors. The football game was essentially over by then, as so many Super Bowls have been concluded prematurely by the Vikings, who somehow seem to save their worst for Pete Rozelle's answer to urban strife set to music and pigeons. The only fascinating part was how ingeniously easy Minnesota made it for the Oakland Raiders this time. It was perfectly evident that the Raiders came to play a superb game; it was just that no one realized they wouldn't have to.

Before the final score becomes a question for trivia experts, let it be stated that the bearded, brawling Raiders won the "World Championship Game" 32 to 14 last Sunday afternoon. They did it by lavishing on themselves all kinds of luxuries seldom seen in clashes that are supposed to be close and hard-fought and nervously contested. They played throw-and-catch as if they were in a game of two-below touch. They made a running star out of a former USC halfback who isn't known by his initials. They had a punt blocked for the first time since Ray Guy was in diapers. They missed a field goal and two extra points when Errol Mann kept aiming at the Ventura Freeway instead of the Rose Bowl uprights. They got a 75-yard touchdown dash with an interception out of a fellow who can't outrun anybody but John Madden and Fran Tarkenton. And what it all meant was that these Raiders were so ready and so talented, they succeeded in turning the Super Bowl halftime extravaganza into something people seriously watched.

This, of course, was well after the Vikings had gotten the two big breaks in the early part of the proceedings—a missed Oakland field goal and a blocked Oakland punt—and wound up with a 16-0 halftime score. Oakland's favor. After that it was perfectly clear to the 100,421 Pasadena witnesses that the Vikings were going to do for the Raiders what they had done for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1970 Super Bowl (they lost 23-7), what they had done for the Miami Dolphins in the 1974 Super Bowl (they lost 24-7), and what they had done for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1975 Super Bowl (they lost 16-6).

And when it was over, poor Fran Tarkenton repeated what he had said after two of those wonderful exhibitions: "They played extremely well. We played lousy."

Fresh Heir

Sports Illustrated cover Tua Tagovailoa, Jan. 15, 2018, Fresh Heir
Sports Illustrated

Story headline: It Takes Tua

Subhead: A bold coaching decision. A furious second-half comeback led by a true freshman. A stunning missed field goal. A miracle overtime TD pass. The Crimson Tide had to dig deeper than usual to beat Georgia and win Nick Saban's record-tying sixth national title.

Excerpt (by Andy Staples): He held his headset in his hands, and if he hadn't needed it, he might have thrown it all the way from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa. Alabama coach Nick Saban had put the ball in the hands of a backup true freshman quarterback (by choice). That quarterback was protected by a true freshman left tackle (by necessity). Now, down three in overtime of the national title game, those two had produced a disaster.

Tackle Alex Leatherwood had replaced injured starter Jonah Williams in the third quarter. Leatherwood had played well until Alabama's first offensive snap of overtime, when he let Georgia linebacker Davin Bellamy slip past. Bellamy chased Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who had replaced starter Jalen Hurts to start the second half, backward. Bellamy dived and missed, but teammate Jonathan Ledbetter joined the pursuit. Tagovailoa kept backpedaling. Tagovailoa scrambled the wrong way so long that Bellamy had time to get up, chase again and sack him for a 16-yard loss.

But the great thing about freshmen is, they don't know what they don't know, and Tagovailoa didn't seem to grasp that the sack was supposed to doom his team.

Result

Fresh Heir (Tua Tagovailoa) def. Oakland Bowls Them Over (Kenny Stabler), score TBA

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Christopher Walsh
Christopher Walsh

Editor

Even though I grew up a Vikings fan, I’ve always really liked this cover. There’s just something about the deep purple and silver contrast, plus the look on Stabler’s face.?


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